Asdrubal Cabrera will enter 2017 as the starting shortstop for the New York Mets, and that’s not a bad thing. He provided the Mets with above-average offense last year, hitting .280/.336/.474 with some surprising pop, belting 23 home runs—his most since his 2011 season with the Cleveland Indians—and collecting 62 RBIs.
That offensive outburst combined with better-than-expected defense found him tied for ninth among qualified shortstops in fWAR, just ahead of Troy Tulowitzki. Cabrera seems very likely to regress, but even his worst projection has him hitting .250/.311/.412 along with 16 home runs and 57 RBIs.
While Cabrera was above average offensively last year, we can probably say the opposite about his defense. A look at his fielding percentage shows Cabrera had the best year he’s ever had as a shortstop, but a closer look at more advanced metrics show what’s been a trend for Cabrera throughout his career. This past season he finished with -7 DRS, good for 20th among qualified shortstops. Cabrera also finished with a UZR of -4.2, which puts him at 18th in that same group of shortstops. He’s never had a positive number in either category as a shortstop. Below-average defensive play is usually forgiven as long as you are producing at the plate, and Cabrera should continue to hit well enough for his defense to remain acceptable.
Cabrera will also look to stay healthy this upcoming season, as the 10-year veteran has missed 16 or more games in every season since 2012. Being on the field more means chances for moments like this one, and the Mets would like to see more of those. The Mets seem well equipped to replace Cabrera if he does miss time, however, with options such as Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores, Matt Reynolds, and top prospect Amed Rosario.
The Mets have an $8.5 million team option on Cabrera for 2018 with a $2 million buyout, a decision that will likely hinge on Rosario’s performance and development this season. In the meantime, Cabrera will be a more-than-capable stopgap who should continue his solid play in 2017.